Fizzpiration: Hussein Chalayan

An ode to the dialogue between old and new, Fizzpiration is our look at the renegade creators that came before us.

In the age of the coming ‘Metaverse’, our lives are increasingly shaped by a longstanding discourse: “digital or analog?”

The conclusion, of course, is often both. Culture resides in an endless in between with the past and the future in constant conversation.

Take for example, photography filters. So many media overlays harken back to the film days, nostalgically staining screens with scratches even though technological progress rendered these markings obsolete decades ago.

No matter where one looks, be it at art, dance, design or music, our cultural reminiscence continuously pulls the analog into our digital present.

And fashion is no exception.

Digital Fashion opens doors to innovations in design with zero-gravity draping and programmable dressing. Yet within this boundary breaking new, inspiration still comes from the original old. From couture houses of the 1920s to streetwear drops of the late 90s, fashion's history will inform how our third-web future is formed.

An ode to this constant collision of mediums, Fizzspiration is our look at the renegade creators that came before us. From archives and graduate collections, to museums and internet wormholes, each month we’ll pull from fashion’s fizzical forms to shape the future of digitally-native garments.

EYES on Hussein Chalayan Fall 2000: AfterWords

Hussein Chalayan - Coffee Table Dress A/W00. Image Credit: Hussein Chalayan via Another Mag

Turkish Cypriot designer Hussein Chalayan’s mother was raised in the 60s during the intercommunal violence in Cyprus. As a child, Chalayan asked his mother: “What is the first thing you’d want to take with you if you learnt your neighborhood would be raided?”

She replied, “My old photographs, a blanket, and maybe my favorite clothes.” Chalayan’s 2000 Fall show, AfterWords, drew on this response. It was conceptualized with the explicit aim of examining a horrific situation through a performance piece. Touching on the experience of forced evacuation and the lives of many refugees around the world, the show stretched the boundaries of fashion’s structural capabilities to convey a potent narrative. Beginning with a family of five listening in as Bulgarian folk singers trawled in their native tongue, the show saw models walk, deadpan through a bland sixties-decorated room.

But just before the show's conclusion, three models dressed in black ominously appeared. Each model that came next brought with them the sense of an impending brisk evacuation. The first to arrive stripped off the covers from a set of chairs, reversing and then speedily fastening the covers onto themselves with panels until they became dresses. These covers, Chalayan explains, were tedious work, tailored to fit not only the chairs but the models perfectly.

Next, a lone girl walked in, past the covered-clad models now holding briefcases to foreshadow their imminent departure. Strolling over to the table, the girl calmly lifted a panel, stepping inside to trigger the legs to spring up. Quickly, the table became a skirt, automatically attaching itself to her dress. Watch the video of the show here.

Best in class for: Cohesive Conceptual Design

Why is this show so good? Is it the ease with which the design fits both prompts? Its challenge to the conventional materials used in fashion? Or the powerful backstory the performance brings to life?

In our eyes it's all of the above. Illustrated by the hasty transformation of table to skirt and chairs to dresses (all personal possessions which define a home one might flee from), the show’s concept and meaning is encoded in the clothing's design. The story is told not only in the clothes themselves, but in the materials that make them. And just as should be the case with Digital Fashion pieces of the future, the essential conceptual meaning of the design takes a central role.